U.S. policies in Latin America protested

Thousands of activists are expected to converge on Washington, D.C., April 10-15 for the “Mobilization against military and economic intervention in Latin America and across the globe.” Participants will lobby members of Congress to close the infamous “School of the Americas” (SOA). Participants will also protest meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, and rally in support of the “Justice for Janitors” campaign of Service Employees Union Local 82. Activists will also attend a two-day conference with many speakers and workshops spanning the scope of issues confronting Latin America.

Latin America Solidarity Committee (LASC), one of the prime sponsors of the six-day event, links the war in Iraq with the overall Bush administration policies of military and economic intervention in Latin America and the Caribbean. LASC, an association of national and local U.S.-based grassroots Latin America and Caribbean solidarity groups, includes in its demands the closing of the military base in Vieques and an end to funding for “Plan Colombia,” and opposes the Free Trade Area of the Americas. LASC is seeking to “build a movement without borders.”

Henrik Voss, a member of the SOA Watch staff, told the World there have been some significant victories in Latin America that can inspire the movement for social justice here.

“After years of work, the grassroots people’s movement in Brazil effected an important change of government. We can learn a lot from these movements,” Voss said.

Much of the weekend’s activities will focus on linking the issues of military and economic intervention in Latin America to the anti-war movement. In its call to the mobilization, LASC says, “From Latin America to the Middle East, we will stand up against U.S. intervention.”

“U.S. imperialism didn’t start with the war in Iraq, so we have to make sure we keep the momentum on U.S. policy as a whole,” Voss said, pointing out that $105 million for Colombia was included in Bush’s supplemental Iraq war budget. Many analysts predict Latin America will see an increase of U.S. intervention, under the guise of “combating terrorism.”

The presence of U.S. soldiers and military advisors has increased, across Latin America and the Caribbean, most notably in Colombia.

Operation New Horizons, which aimed to bring some 400 U.S. troops to the Dominican Republic every month was suspended due to the war in Iraq. But a new phase of the operation is scheduled when special operation forces will be sent to train Paraguayan forces in “anti-terrorism” tactics.

“Eagle III,” the largest military exercise, is planned in Argentina with forces from the U.S., Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Chile, Bolivia and Argentina.

The U.S. has cited the war on terrorism as justification for stationing forces and intelligence personnel at bases in Ecuador, Cuba, Venezuela, Panama, Honduras, El Salvador, Uruguay and the Triple Frontier countries of Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil.

The U.S. Navy has announced it will cease operations on Vieques Island in Puerto Rico in May after thousands protested the killing of a civilian in 1999 and the long-term impact of maneuvers on the island and people. However, the many activists will keep an eye on that promise, noting it is not a “done deal” and nothing was put in writing.

Colombia, notorious for its human rights abuses and the number of trade unionists killed each year, will be the focal point of many conference participants. The Pentagon’s plans for Colombia include “privatization” of the security forces, turning some operations over to Military Professional Resources Incorporated and DynCorp., two private armies.

Argentine analyst Gabriel Tokatlian warned of “the dangerous possibility of privatizing armed conflicts. The commercialization of the region’s security matters could be the threshold of a new form of internationalized private war,” he said.

While weekend events have a special focus on Latin America and the Caribbean an April 13 march and rally to protest the World Bank/IMF will include several “tour of shame” stops like Taco Bell and the Inter American Development Bank.

There will also be an anti-war demonstration focusing on Iraq for April 12.

For more information on the mobilization go to www.lasolidarity.org

The author can be reached at talbano@pww.org



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